Sunday, April 27, 2014


I have started a needlework project. It is a blackwork table cover from the book Embroidered Projects by Sue Hawkins but I have decided to throw a bit of colour into it. I had a few false starts and lots of unpicking until I got into the flow of it but I am going well now. Hopefully I can finish it before next weekend. It is on 36 count using one strand of embroidery thread. The measurement of the finished table cover in the book is 2.5 inches by 4.5 inches (6.4cm by 11.3cm) but I might need to alter mine slightly to fit onto the piece of fabric I have. I am really enjoying doing it and it is making me think of other embroidery projects I might enjoy. I am thinking of making some miniature felt bags with embroidery on them.

Hope you have all had a good weekend.

Friday, April 25, 2014

We Will Remember Them

In Flanders fields the poppies blow 
Between the crosses row on row, 
That mark our place; and in the sky 
The larks, still bravely singing, fly 
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
from 'In Flanders Fields' by John McCrae

Today in New Zealand (25 April) it is a public holiday, ANZAC Day.

ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. It commemorates the landing of the ANZACs at Gallipoli, Turkey during World War I in 1915. Close to 3000 New Zealand soldiers died during the eight-month Gallipoli campaign.

At the time of WW1 New Zealand had a population of approximately 1.1 million people. Of that population 103,000 men served overseas. Of those men 18,200 lost their lives and 41,300 were wounded.

The present ANZAC Day is a time to remember all New Zealanders who have served their country in wars and conflicts around the world. Many New Zealanders attend parades, dawn services or commemorative services.

When I did my big OE in 1989/1990 I did visit Mathausen concentration camp in Germany and I did visit some fields of remembrance in Europe where rows of white crosses showed the silver fern (a New Zealand icon) just reading A New Zealand Soldier. It is very sobering seeing places like these. I think it is the first time I really thought about the World Wars.

This year I have to confess I have watched footage of the dawn parades and documentaries on TV from the comfort of my lounge and I won't deny I do appreciate a day off work, but it is a good time to reflect and consider how lucky we are. We should not only remember the men who went away to war but also the men and women who kept things going back in New Zealand and to the many handcrafts and 'make do' inventions that came about at a time when many things were scarce.

I have just read a fabulous book called 'Thrift to Fantasy' written by Rosemary McLeod about home textile crafts of the 1930 - 1950s. I was surprised at what a good read this book was and it really made me think about how thrifty and creative women were in those years, especially during WWII and the Depression Era, and what a throw-away society we live in today. I would thoroughly recommend this read to anyone but especially to New Zealanders. While I have always loved the old handcrafts I am certainly looking at old handcrafts I see in op shops with a whole new appreciation now and I want to try to recreate some of these handcrafts in miniature.

Unfortunately I really do not know a lot about the history of our family's involvement during the world wars and those that would have known the stories are no longer with us, so while watching coverage on TV today I have been heartened to hear about the many initiatives for recording the stories of those that have memories of these times and about a project by a group of professional photographers who are taking a photograph of the returned servicemen that still survive as they are today.

One story that really made me smile today was on a New Zealand news site on the internet. It was about a 101 year old gentleman who had served in WWII. He had attended a commemoration service in Christchurch, New Zealand with three generations of his family. The photo showed a man full of life and pride with a big beaming smile shaking hands. He said this would probably be his last parade but his daughter said "He always says that". He is apparently known for his sense of humour, was still able to walk with the aid of a walker, still drove his car and did not require reading glasses - but did have hearing aids. He credited his long life span to a mixture of garlic and rum. As I read the article I found myself smiling at the man on the page and thought what a lovely photo for his family to remember him by when he does eventually join his comrades.

We Will Remember Them.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Pause for Thought

I've been feeling very tired this Easter break and while I've wanted to get into my miniatures I have struggled with motivation. I just want to curl up and do nothing. I think the stress of the last few months with my husband losing his job and related stresses have just caught up with me a bit this long weekend.

Today I have been thinking a lot about my future direction in miniatures and have looked back over my old blog entries. Below is part of my first entry on this blog on 8 January 2011. 

"Hi there

I have started this blog for myself really. Being a busy wife, mum and law clerk, I am notorious for not finishing projects and putting other things before my own creative time. I am hoping that by blogging about my creative endeavours it will inspire me to complete projects and to extend myself creatively. I am just getting back into miniatures after about a 15 year break..... My ultimate aim is that, as well as getting back into miniatures myself, I will also hopefully inspire other miniaturists, crafters and busy people who would like to explore their creative potential to just have a go."

I had a shaky and slow start to blogging with 4 entries in 2011 and 13 entries in 2012. I was so excited when I got my first follower on 28 January 2012 - thanks Brae! Slowly other people started following my blog and I started following theirs. Inspiration and motivation kept building slowly until in 2013 I really started getting into blogging posting 67 entries. I really do love being part of this blogging community and recently even when I haven't been motivated to make miniatures I have tried to find something to blog about to keep the communication flowing.

Looking back over my blog I have had moments where I have been passionate about starting a project around certain items such as a bird themed gallery or shop, arts and crafts movement furniture, Timeless Toys toy shop but I have struggled to move forward with those ideas.

In fact the only project I have started and finished has been the project I made for my sister, the Selina Rose Gallery. I have a number of projects that I have not yet completed such as Sugar & Spice, a book shelf in a box, my Christmas box and my vintage house The Laurels.

While I have struggled with motivation I have seen so many pictures of things that have inspired an idea for a miniature, techniques I would love to try, or miniature tutorials I would love to make but they didn't fit in with my projects and I didn't let myself just have a go for the pure enjoyment of it.

I have come to realise that at the moment I just don't work well restricting myself to working on a project based around one theme. I need to just have a go at what I want to make at any one time and just enjoy it. However, at the same time I don't want to have a random collection of unrelated miniature items sitting on my shelves or tucked away. 

One of my favourite things to do is browsing through second hand and antique shops, op shops, markets and craft stalls. You just never know what treasures you will find. That got me to thinking. I can combine two of my favourite things. Miniatures and markets. 

To be honest I had thought of doing market stalls before but I dismissed the idea because I thought it wasn't original. Many clubs and miniaturists do market stalls, but thinking about it today I realised it is original if I use my own ideas and make my own miniatures. It also means I can make anything I wish to in miniature and it will find a home on one stall or another. The options for stalls are limitless - cakes and pastries, fruit veges and home produce, antiques, books, needlework, weathervanes and wrought iron work, bird items, Christmas items, architectural features, art ... limitless. It also allows me to combine my vintage and modern miniatures together and to find a place for the many miniatures I still have tucked away from the 1990s. 

My head is buzzing with ideas and I have started a Pinterest board to gather market ideas. Yes, it is still a project, but it is a project that gives me scope to jump from one thing to another.

As for Timeless Toys, it is just going to get scaled down to a market stall for now.

So far my thoughts are that I want to make different stalls that will combine to create one large scene over time. At the back of some of the stalls I want to create a building facade (so I can play with creating architectural features) possibly with a bit of depth and use some lighting. Each market stall holder will supply their own display furniture, carts, etc so no stall will be the same. The only similarity between each one will be the base of each (a road, cobbles or the like - not yet decided). I also envisage a cafe spilling out of one of the facades with tables and chairs in the midst of the market stalls. 

Above is a picture of a display cabinet I have in my craft room. I have lugged this heavy cabinet around since the 1990s. It is not very deep but I hope to be able to create each stall scene to fit in the cabinet. The five shelves will hold quite a number of stalls so this could keep me going for many years. This height of the shelves will mean any building facades will be limited to one storey buildings. I can also keep like stalls on separate shelves, e.g. fruit, veges, produce, cakes, food stuffs and gardening etc on one shelf, crafts on another and antique stalls/furniture on another shelf. I have also wanted to have a go at making miniature people so I might create a stallholder for each market stall (we will see how my attempts at doll making turn out before we make a decision on that one though).

Creating this market will also mean I will have my own market to shop at as I do other projects in the future. I really would like to enter some competitions in the future as I love a challenge so I don't see this as being my only miniature project for the future. There is also also one large project I wish to do in the future but until I can afford a suitable 8+-roomed dolls house it is on hold. In the future I wish to do a dolls house based around the story Ballet Shoes. There are so many varied and interesting characters in this story that this project would also give a lot of scope for variety.

Anyway it is now late afternoon and I have spent most of my day thinking and blogging. I do feel more motivated but I don't want to rush into the market base and building facades yet until I have a clear idea of how I want the overall 'market' to look. However I can start making miniatures of any type or description. I think I might go and start a miniature blackwork table cloth - just because I can and because I am going to let myself!

Sorry if this is a bit long-winded. I guess this blog entry is probably more for myself - I just needed to think in blog format.

I hope everyone is having a great Easter.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Happy Easter

First of all I just want to thank all my blog friends and visitors for the lovely comments they have been leaving on my recent blog entries. They give me the 'warm fuzzies' and keep me motivated to create.

It is late afternoon on Good Friday here in New Zealand and I just want to wish everyone a lovely Easter.

I have pulled together a little Easter scene to celebrate entitled 'Hiding the Eggs'. Mr & Mrs Rabbit are hiding the eggs for a big Easter egg hunt while all their little bunny off-spring are having an afternoon nap. They have lots of off-spring so they need to hide lots of eggs.

In perfect conditions (weather, health, food, safety etc rabbits could have a litter of up to 10 kits every 31 days). Imagine that!

Hiding the Eggs

I had previously made many of the components and just pulled them together to make a scene using a 6" x 4" photo frame as a base. I didn't make the little mouse. That was made by a lovely lady, Heather Corrin (now deceased), that I knew when I was doing miniatures back in the 1990s . She used to do fabulous fimo work and I am lucky to have some of her creations. Little mouse has been waiting for his own little 'scene' for quite some time and is happily sheltering under a plant watching the antics of Mr & Mrs Rabbit.

Finally, I'd just like to share a vintage Easter postcard I picked up at a second hand shop. It is unused and on the back it says "Postcard. Place Stamp Here. 1 cent to United States, Canada or Mexico. 2 cent to all other Countries". At those postage prices I am guessing it is rather old.

Happy Easter Everyone

Thursday, April 17, 2014

I See A Mouse House

I see a mouse house in my future. Hopefully when you see the pictures of the tin I just bought you will see what I mean. This just begs to become a small scale mouse house.

Isn't it cute. It appears to be from 2008 (the labels says 'Best before August 2008') and originally held pink and white marshmallows. It was obviously intended as a Christmas gift as some mice have Santa costumes or Santa hats on and there are presents, candy canes, stockings, a Christmas pudding and even a couple of little mice smiling under some mistletoe. I love the story 'The Night Before Christmas' so I think I would work around that theme.

The tin is 31cm tall by 21cm wide.

The front.

The right side.

The left side.

The back.


Of course I have other projects to do first and I already have a Christmas project on the go, so this will be put aside for now. I just had to share it with you though.

Hopefully I will be back in a day or two with a little Easter scene.

Bye for now.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Fire Screen Tutorial - Part 2

Hi everyone. I have just got home from work and I am armed with a coffee, so on with the tutorial.

The next step is to work on the bottom of the fire surround. This is one of those projects where you can rattle through your scraps of wood to choose the wood pieces for your surrounds. The bottom piece of wood could just be a straight piece of wood or something really fancy if you want. If you are a scroll saw guru you could even create a shaped piece of wood for the bottom and top of the fire screen. I like to use a piece of dolls house architrave. Cut the piece of architrave the same width as your fire screen and hold it against the bottom of the screen to check it fits well. If you find the bottom edge of your screen isn't as straight as it could be just run it over sandpaper to get an even surface. Then paint your choice of wood with the same paint treatment as you have done the side pieces and finally glue it on to the firescreen.

Just a note: While for efficiency of time when making these screens it would be sensible to cut all pieces of wood and paint them all at the same time, I have a tendency to sand and sometimes trim the screen as I go. That is just the way I work. I prefer to cut pieces to fit as I move from stage to stage. It gives me the freedom to choose the wood and make any changes as I go (or to tidy up bad cuts or inaccurate measurements!).

The next step is the top of the screen. The possibilities for this are endless. You might like to look at fire screens on Google images for ideas. For the screen I did for my giveaway I used a Kaisercraft Wooden Flourish. I don't have any of those to hand so I am going to improvise and design a different top for this firescreen. I've looked through my wood bits and pieces and this is what I am going to use - a 5mm x 3mm strip of wood and a strip of tiny turnings.

Once you have made your choice paint the wood pieces.

(Arrhh - it is dark already - I miss daylight savings. I am just going to have my tea and I will be back to finish the tutorial. I'm determined to finish it tonight. See you soon...).

I'm back. Now glue the wood strip to the top of the fire screen to give it a tidy finish.

I then cut the two ends off the tiny turning and trimmed the centre length of the tiny turning to fit in between. Glue together and attach to the fire screen.

Lastly for the feet I use little laser cut brackets. Unfortunately I forgot to photograph them before I cut pieces out of them but I stole this picture off the internet (sshhhh, don't tell!) - they look like this:

I then cut a slit out of the right angle corner to slot the bottom of the fire screen into.

And there we have a (an aged) fire screen using antique wallpaper and scraps of wood:

I will touch up the paint work a bit tomorrow when it is light enough to see and will give the screen a spray of protective matt varnish.

And just to finish this tutorial here are the pics of my February giveaway fire screen for another version:

Anyway that is it for tonight. Hopefully you can follow my ramblings.

Tomorrow I can start working on my little Easter project.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Fire Screen Tutorial - Part 1

Well I promised a while ago to do a tutorial on the fire screen that I made for my February giveaway pictured below:

The fire screen for this tutorial will be a bit different from the one pictured above but that is the great thing about them, you can make them to your own taste and change the details such as the feet and the top ornamentation to suit what you have to hand.

The size of your fire screen will vary depending on the size of your fireplace, so take your fireplace and work out roughly the size you want your fire screen to be. I want mine to be approximately 9.5cm wide by 7.5cm high.

Then cut out a piece of 2mm dense cardboard approximately 1.5cm smaller than you want your finished screen to be both length and widthwise, so in my case 8.0cm x 6.0cm. You could also use wood instead of card but as I am going to cover it in paper I find a dense cardboard the best option. I use a cardboard that I also use for book covers. It is strong and can be sanded if required.

When you have cut out your piece of cardboard trace around it on a piece of scrap paper and put the scrap paper away for a later step.

I like to seal my cardboard with a gesso primer. (When painting on the gesso it showed that one edge of my cardboard was very rough so I let it dry, sanded it and then touched it up with gesso again). The good thing about gesso is that it is quick drying. If you know what colour you want to paint the wooden border of your fire screen you might want to paint that colour on the edges of  your cardboard now also. Most of the edges will be hidden but I like to do this just in case a bit of the edge shows. I just ran gold pen around the edges of mine once the gesso had dried as there is gold in my design.

While your card is drying take your scrap of paper (or thin card might be more ideal) that you have traced around the card on and cut out the inside making a 'window' to view your wallpaper.

Hold the window over your wallpaper, wrapping paper, fabric or whatever you choose and when you see what you want put a dot on the four outside corners and cut out the paper. Do the same for what you are using for the back of the screen.

(When working with antique papers especially please ensure your cutting blades are always sharp. For some of the more fragile antique papers careful cutting with scissors is a better option.)

You can then carefully place your cardboard on the back of the wallpaper ensuring it is in the correct position for your design and trace around the card. You can then cut out the paper right on the line (or just fractionally inside the line).

Once your pieces are cut you can glue them to the card. I prefer to put the glue on the card and then press the papers onto it. Take particular care the paper is glued well on the edges. Let dry.

Once it is dry if there is a slight overlap of paper over the card I find an emery board will remove any excess. Also, if you find you have cut your paper slightly smaller than the card, once everything is dry it is easy to trim a little off the edge to tidy things up.

You have now completed the front and back centre of your firescreen.

Of course regarding any of these instructions many of you will have your own methods. You may decide to leave out some steps or do things a different way. Please do what works for you. This tutorial only shows my way of doing things after some trial and error and to be honest I am constantly changing my techniques as I learn new things.

Now, on to the next step of putting the side edges on the fire screen.

See that wonderful wood on the left, that is what I used for the giveaway firescreen but I don't have the right size left and not everyone has this wood so I am going to deal with the edges another way. I am going to use 3mm thick wood for the sides (by now your 2mm card with paper added to both sides is closer to 3mm) and in my case a piece of card (1mm wood strip would be preferable but I don't have any to hand).

You want to measure two lengths of 3mm thick wood exactly the same length as the side of your firescreen centre. The width of the wood can be whatever you feel will look good for your firescreen. I made mine 10mm wide. Then you want to measure two pieces of 1mm thick wood the same height but just a little wider than your 3mm thick wood (say an extra 3mm in width). That made mine 13mm wide. Glue the 3mm thick wood on top of the 1mm thick wood with one side lined up (as below).

Paint both pieces the colour you want your surround to be. You don't need too much paint on the inside 'L' as your card will be glued into that or on the ends as they will be glued to other pieces of wood.

As my antique wallpaper is a little age marked I also wanted an aged look on the wood surround. To achieve that I painted mine with a coat of gesso and waited for it to dry, I then painted on a coat of Tamiya Gold Leaf paint and when close to dry I put another coat of gesso on it. Before that dried I rubbed a toothbrush over the surface to bring out some of the gold and even took some back to the first layer of gesso. I then finished off with a little dry brushing of gold paint here and there for emphasis.

You now have three pieces for the main part of the fire screen:

Glue them together:

Unfortunately that is it for today as the light is getting difficult to work in and it is tea time. I will come back tomorrow and give you part 2.

If anybody does make the firescreen from this tutorial and has any questions or runs into any difficulty please do not hesitate to ask me any questions.

I hope you are having a great weekend. Mine is nearly over as it is 6.15 pm on Sunday night in New Zealand.

See you tomorrow!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Lost in Illustrations

My husband decided to treat me today to a visit to the local antique shop. By that I mean he dropped me off at the antique shop while he and Jamie went and got some groceries and posted a parcel. I haven't let myself walk in the door of the shop since Pete lost his job. The lady in the shop had just put out a lovely old ABC book just before I walked in the shop. I saw it almost instantly. I had to have it.  I also bought a little elephant that matches another one that I have so they will look nice either side of a miniature mantel piece and a slightly over-sized vase of flowers that I am sure I can make use of somewhere. I also had a quick look in the local Hospice shop and bought some plastic monopoly pieces and some mesh ribbon along with an orange cake ribbon that came in the same bag.

As far as the plastic monopoly pieces go I think the boots will paint up well, I will flock the little dog to look like a toy dog for my Timeless Toys toy shop and I will paint the little wheel barrow and put some flowers in it for a floral decoration for a window sill or table. I thought I would add some beads to a little square of the mesh ribbon to make a miniature sugar bowl cover and I am sure there will be many more uses for it.

As for the book I just love it. I have always loved beautiful book illustrations and the coloured illustrations in this book are gorgeous. There is an inscription inside the book with the date 1904. The book is not in perfect condition and some little child has done a bit of colouring in here and there but for 110 years old the book isn't doing too bad. I am going to scan the book and create a miniature version.

The book is an ABC book and has cute little verses in it e.g. for F it says "F is for Fishing, and F is for Freddy; He's caught three fine fish and a young duck already" and for G it says "G is for Gardening, and G is for Gerty whose Garden is bright, though her pinafore's dirty."

Of course being me I had to do some research. The book was published by Ernest Nister, London & E P Dutton & Co, New York and was printed in Bavaria. I looked up Ernest Nister in Google images and I was lost in illustrations - beautiful images of old book illustrations. I then started looking at pictures of other antique book illustrators. Needless to say time went and my day disappeared.

It is now 10.30 pm on Saturday night in New Zealand and I am about to head to bed to read.

Tomorrow I hope to do a tutorial, most likely for the fire screen that I promised someone.

See you tomorrow.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Darkness Comes...

Yesterday (Sunday) was the end of daylight savings in New Zealand. We had to put our clocks back an hour when we went to bed on Saturday night. As we head into winter with our mornings getting darker our evenings will also get darker earlier. On the plus side I effectively got an extra hour in my day yesterday.

Even though it was Sunday, a day when I usually let myself lie in bed and read miniature magazines for an extra hour or so, I was up at 6.30 am. I originally thought I'd just let the dogs out, make a cup of tea and jump back into bed for a while. However, then the vision of my messy work desk came to mind and I decided I would not get any miniatures done unless I sorted out my craft room. I therefore made my cup of tea, checked my emails and blogs and got to it. Doesn't it feel great when you actually have a bit of spare space on your work desk. I know it won't last that long before it will need another tidy up but it feels good for now.

So when my craft space was tidy, and after I had done the required housework in the rest of the house, I found myself sitting at my work desk wondering what to do. I'm still in thinking mode with my Timeless Toys project at the moment and I can't quite motivate myself to move on with it, however I do have a number of kits that I need to make up of items to go into the toy shop so I decided I would do as many of those kits as I could.

I felt really positive I was going to have a good day of making miniatures. However, it turned out to be one of those days.

My day started off with me breaking a lovely miniature glass jug of orange juice. I had always loved the jug as it was really nice quality and looked lovely in scenes and I have had it for many years. It smashed to pieces. Then, in trying to find the pieces of glass I cut my finger. I won't go into details but my day didn't get much better.

However I did manage to make one thing. This is a hobby horse from a Jean Day Miniatures Fabric Panel Kit of Victorian Toys, Even when making this I pricked my finger with a needle and bled on it!!! Still, at least I completed something.

Hopefully I'll have better luck with making miniatures next weekend.

Perhaps if I send myself a good luck postcard:

I hope you all had a great weekend.